Eating like our predecessors – is it really possible?

Today, more and more nutritionists are claiming the diet and generally, the way of consuming food of our predecessors was a way healthier than the one featuring modern society. We do not even have to return to distant past in order to notice the impact of the diet on people. Many of us has great-grandparents or grandparents who lived almost a century even though they struggled with various malaises and injuries during such a long lifespan. Needless to say, it is difficult not to connect long years of life with a diet which has been changing since the very evolvement of humans.

Let’s look at the ways modern people are trying to adopt the diet of predecessors and try to decide whether it is possible.

Why the diet of our distant relatives was healthier than ours?

Today, you will hardly meet a person who has absolutely no idea about the quality of the modern nutritional products. Actually, everything available on the market contains at least a couple of additives which can cause some harm to your health starting from food allergies, antibiotic resistance and ending with cancer.

Modern nutritional products contain a range of ingredients which are aiming to improve their taste and nutritional value and preserve them for a long time. Apart from containing a large amount of ingredients added to the food on purpose such as sugar or salt, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavours (esters) and colourants, emulsifiers and texture stabilisers as well as nitrates, food also has other chemical compounds. For instance, meat can have residuals from antibiotics and other drugs used for treating the animals whereas vegetables and fruits can have the remains of herbicides and insecticides. Furthermore, this is not the end of the list, since food also contains the pollutants from the environment, for example heavy metals.

Even such additives as microelements and vitamins which are potentially healthy can be come a health problem since today it is rather difficult to keep a track of their amount. For example, we can consume large amounts of red meat which is a natural source of iron and, at the same time, eat breakfast cereals and cookies which were enriched by the addition of iron. As a result, we may end up eating too much of iron on a daily basis which can cause health problems, for instance blood thickening which can be led by clot formation in the blood. The problem is it is not so simple to take an excessive amount of vitamins and micronutrients from their natural sources but when they are synthesised artificially and added to the products which have never had them in a natural way, can cause unexpected results in our bodies.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget about a whole range of technological processes used for producing modern food including hydrogenation of plant oils transforming them into trans-fats or grain extrusion which takes all of their health benefits.

What if we try to eat like our predecessors?

Now, when you are aware of the hazards coming from modern nutritional products, let’s try to imagine consuming food like it was done by our predecessors.

The first step you can make is resigning from heavily-processed products which are the most dangerous for our health. Some of them are processed meat, junk food and packaged pastries. Stopping consuming such food is more of an issue of your will power since you can really avoid it if you want.

The next step is avoiding any other products with chemical additives. This can be rather difficult since even salt is not pure. Even if it doesn’t contain iodine or fluorine which are added to these products in order to supply us with these crucial micronutrients which might be not otherwise present in our diets, almost any salt has a special chemical compound protecting it against humidity. That is why, at this stage of switching to the diet of our predecessors, for example, to paleo, you might face some problems.

Furthermore, what about eating salt in the first place? Should we eat plant oils which have so many benefits for our health? The majority of paleo versions don’t have any limitations for salt and allow to consume particular types of oils, but these widespread products definitely were not available in the Palaeolithic time. Such diets as paleo do not allow you to consume dairy products, legumes and grains, since they were not used by our distant ancestors.

Still, if you think about almost any species of vegetables or fruits we are consuming today, you will see how much they differ from the plants gathered by the first people. Even if you have access to completely organic farm products which haven’t been genetically modified or grown with the help of any pesticides or fertilisers and coming from the clearest part of the Earth, such fruits and vegetable are still not the same as they used to be. Our predecessors consumed wild plants and the one we have today, even if not being GMO, are still the result of careful breeding. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, the differences are immense, for instance, the amount of fructose modern fruits have is far greater than the one featuring wild fruits.

As you can see, no matter how hard you try, it is not possible to reverse time and come back to the first diet of humans. Yet, don’t forget that our bodies are changing as well even if the modifications are not obvious, they are really large affecting the entire microgenome of our bodies.